My first thong was really ugly.
It was army green and had a corresponding camouflage print to match . Clashing with the theme was an out-of-place lace trim and a little bow in the middle – both in a bright shade of lime green. There may have even been a rhinestone.
I was thirteen – and I loved it.
I remember clutching that thong in Target, coaching myself on how to convince my mom that of course I needed it and no way was I too young for it and but mom all the other girls in school have one and this is not the same thing as jumping off a bridge!
In the end I was victorious and that ugly green thong was my victory flag. I had graduated from those five-pack pastel Hanes Her Way briefs. It felt like a major step toward womanhood, and Mother Nature hadn’t even paid me a visit yet. So this is what Britney spears meant in that one song, I thought in awe.
This month the New York Times Style section published data reporting that sales for thongs, once so popular they could give Sisqo a top 10 hit in 1999, had fallen seven percent in the last year. Meanwhile, the revenue for briefs, including the high-waist variety, and boy shorts had risen by 17 percent.
“Thongs have had their moment,” declared Bernadette Kissane, an apparel analyst for Euromonitor. “Within millennial and Generation Y consumer groups, it’s considered cool to be wearing full-bottom underwear.”
The Times interviewed a number of young underwear designers, all female, who claimed women were buying less thongs because they were “finally” buying underwear for themselves.
“Most lingerie is designed to appeal to a man,” said Julia Baylis, whose company Me And You sells a $25 pair of briefs with the word “Feminist” emblazoned on the back in baby pink. “This underwear is totally for you,” she continued. “Maybe no one will see it, or maybe you’ll put it up on Instagram to share with everyone you know.”
“What’s sexy for us is being natural and comfortable,” said her business partner Mayan Toledano. That was enough for the rest of the internet to declare the death of the thong–and granny panties the modern day feminist flag.
So long “butt floss” and “constant wedgies” cheered E! “Big knickers are back!” British publication The Independent happily proclaimed. And because this is 2015, the thong’s funeral song had to play out in listicle form, as seen in Bustle’s “11 Reasons Why Granny Panties Are Everything, Because Thongs Just Need To Stop.”
Refinery29 took it a step further, claiming instead of just “different shopping motives” the shift symbolized that “many women aren’t actually buying panties to impress anyone else” but “buying a particular style simply because they like it.” And the Huffington Post made the boldest proclamation of all, writing in their headline that the “Granny Panties” rise could be “tied to a healthier perception of beauty.”
As I read these headlines and articles for a second I was ashamed – and a little confused. In the midst of my underwear drawer full of boy shorts, cheekies and bikini briefs were plenty of thongs in a rainbow of colors and a multitude of prints (except camouflage, never again) I had accumulated over the years, choosing all of them, to borrow the Refinery29 author’s words, simply because I liked them. I found them totally comfortable and I had bought a total of zero of them for a man.
And when I talked to a number of my awesome feminist friends – including the wonderful ladies of Thelma – I found that they felt the same way. They talked about how that first thong in their drawer felt like “a symbol of being an adult”.
“The first time I bought one, was more about me feeling like a woman, and growing up,” my friend Nicki told me. “Not about boys.”
The very underwear being declared dead for its predisposed aura of sexiness was actually what had made so many of us feel comfortable with our womanhood in the first place. Some of the women I talked to just loved thongs for their practicality. That, despite what HuffPo claimed, they found them more comfortable when they had a little more to work with in the back, not to mention its added benefit of vanishing VPL (Visible Panty Lines).
“I wear thongs because my butt is big,” Colleen told me. “All other cuts pinch my butt and look stupid in pants. It has nothing to do with men—it’s purely logistics. I love thongs!”
“I, too, am posteriorly gifted and my body just so vehemently disagrees with elastic and wedgies” said Hannah. “I don’t wear them for guys – what guy is going to get enough into the process of undressing you and then stop at your underwear because he doesn’t like what he sees?”
And my friend Kristi said she finds that thongs are not only comfortable and convenient, but also make her feel elegant and empowered.
“I choose to wear them to celebrate my body,” she said. “And feel sexy for me every day.”
There is an ironic moment towards the end of the Times article, when Daphne Javitch of Ten Undies, popular for their $45 pair of high briefs, says “I think there’s a widespread misconception that men are into pearl thong, lace contraptions. To be honest, men are into girls in T-shirts and white underwear.”
She might as well have said, “you should be happy you have a big butt! Because that’s what men really like”. Hey, wait a second…
Javitch contradicts the entire article with that proclamation, and yet she also perfectly sums up the point it failed to make in the first place. As my awesome female friends have illustrated, they couldn’t really care less what guys think about what they’re wearing underneath. And they’ve been shopping for themselves this whole time.
“It’s all about what the woman wants to make herself feel good and powerful,” wrote my friend Danielle, who admitted that she finds thongs uncomfortable and pledges her allegiance to boy shorts. If we want to talk about clothing, let’s talk about how regardless of what we choose to wear, we do it for us.”
At the end of the day, every woman is different and will find that she feels sexy or comfortable (or both!) in something different. It’s like Kristi said, “Our bodies are not one size fit all, so naturally, our underwear choices should not be either.”
A guy isn’t any more or less of a man if he wears boxers or briefs. Let’s make sure the same is true for the ladies, no matter how much fabric they want to cover their cheeks.